SP Reading /Watching / Writing / Listening

Photographs Objects Histories. On the Materiality of Images. Edited by Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart

This book of chapters explores the photograph as a material object. Having read it all too briefly it’s back on my FMP reading list as I consider how original vintage photographs are transformed when I include them in my work; particularly how the digitalisation processing of vintage analogue photographs alters them.

At the core of the writings, the book considers the photograph not only as a 2D image, but a 3D object. Below are my notes describing the initial contextual connections I have found to my own work.

“Three important features of the photograph are central to many debates about the complexity of photographs: the materiality of the photographic object, the concept of the original photograph and the origin of photographic meaning.  It is therefore appropriate to consider a photograph as a multilayered laminated object in which meaning is derived from a symbiotic relationship between materiality , content and context. From this foundation it is possible to investigate how these aspects of the photograph are altered during the digitalisation process.” (Joanna Sassoon cited in Edwards and Hart 2004: p199)

The words ‘materiality, content and context’ are central to the work I have been doing; with the material features and content obvious, particularly when the album was dissected. Context has been more problematic as I tried and failed to uncover historical facts encapsulated within the photographs; known to the album owners but a mystery to me, today’s viewer.

“In choosing , sequencing, organising and captioning the photographs for the album, the person responsible transforms the meaning of selected images into an intensely individualistic expression. At the moment of creation, the photo album is a personal artefact, a record of people and events that are rich with biography and personal memory….clearly marked by the traces of their owners and their practices.’ (Glenn Wilumson, cited in Edwards and Hart 2004: p66)

Researching using genealogy websites I’ve searched for records but have only been able to fictionalise personal memories. Where the archives have not provided answers I have created stories to imagine what  could  have been there. Where there are missing photographs text has provided me with clues. Some photographs have been cut, others removed violently from the page, leaving tears and holes.

“The physical condition of the object, the dirt and damage, is evidence of its other lives”. (Sassoon, in Edwards and Hart: p200)

These ‘other lives’ remain a mystery, I do not know why certain photos were selected for removal and why others were protected, only to then be disposed of, wholesale, as the album found its way to an online auction.  Paradoxically the images that were so violently removed were most likely kept safe, as a memory, whilst those kept In the album were forever lost.

Whilst trying to find out more about certain images in the album, I used a magnifying lupe hoping to find more clues. It was an aid in identifying characters that appeared more than once:

“using a Lupe to magnify detail in an original photograph…physically draws the viewer into the core materiality of the object…while almost touching the object’s surface.” (Sassoon in Edwards and Hart: p215)

‘Photographs exist in time and space… “They are made, used, kept, and stored for specific reasons which do not necessarily coincide…they can be transported, relocated, dispersed or damaged, torn and cropped because viewing implies one or several physical interactions” (Porto 2001:38 in Edwards and Hart, p3-4)’

The middle section of my Work in Progress takes a closer look at the album itself, the paper, the way light and shade casts shadows through the tears in the pages. These new images bring a new quality to the work, at the same time staying true to its original materiality. The only post production editing to these images involved the manipulation of curves, levels and contrast.

“While present in photographic objects and vintage prints…physical qualities…are hard to replicate and often lost completely in copies using modern photographic materials.” (Sassoon in Edwards and Hart: p.200). It is my hope that in photographing the pages in such detail I have in some way preserved old meanings and references within them, even though invisible two the eye.

…digitising suspends old meanings and creates new ones in new collections…(Sassoon in Edwards and Hart: p202)

Full references can be found on the References page of this blog.

Guest lecture: Francesca Genovese

Francesca has ben the director of Francesca Maffeo Gallery in Leigh-On-Sea for around two years. Originally working in Further and Higher Education she now works with emerging and established artists. Points I noted from her talk:

Approaching a gallery:

  • Establish and work at relationships
  • There is a lot of ground work that is done prior to any contract being signed
  • Francesca will look at potential clients’ exhibitions, social media and other presence before arranging meetings
  • If you wish to approach a gallery it’s fine to email. Francesca will look at emails in detail probably monthly.  The email must be personal to the gallery. know the gallery, why you chose it, and why you think your work will fit there
  • In your email include an artist’s statement and a pdf. You can include a website link, but a pdf can be printed off and come back to at a later date if necessary

Funding an art practice:

  • Work!
  • Grants/awards
  • There is likely to be commercial /editorial overlapping with any fine art practice

Editions and pricing

  • Set editions can’t be changed if they are already selling
  • If the work is by a new artist it’s a long process to find the right selling price. Their work will be looked at alongside others. Prices can’t be reduced
  • Small editions will be reflected in the price
  • It’s Ok to seek advice to make the price work
  • Francesca might sell work for anything between £1000 and £9000
  • There is a place online for prints /open editions. However this is not advisable if you want to work in a gallery
  • If you are an established artist, editions work well
  • Initially focus on projects and then editionalise

Gallery information

  • There are responsibilities for both parties in the contract. The artist should keep the gallery director informed of their practice, publications, exhibitions etc. Francesca likes to be involved as much as possible
  • Exhibitions are different every time. The same printing labs are not always used. She has recommendations.
  • Exhibitions can be scheduled for the future, and can sometimes be agreed even when they still need an edit
  • Post exhibition, Francesca saves the work in large scale photo boxes. In this way the work always has a place, viewers can still ask to view it
  • Photobooks are increasingly used; sometimes as an object in its own right, sometimes as a support to the exhibition
  • Diary – like work suits photobooks
  • Don’t use the photobook as a portfolio or catologue
  • It should always be about the work, the project, not about making money. Thus should not be a question to ask the director. The rest takes care of itself

Artists mentioned in the presentation, for further research at a later date:

Spencer Murphy, Laura Pannack, Sophie Harris Taylor.

Philip Toledano and Taryn Simon

Over the last few weeks I have looked at the work of two more practitioners, under the recommendations of my tutor. Here, I will summarise what fascinated me in the work of Philip Toledano and Taryn Simon.  Full references are given on the reference page of this blog.

Philip Toledano.

It was suggested that I look at his work “When I was six”. I approached Toledano’s website via the home page and decided to have a look around it first, wanting to see his videos (as it’s a form I have used very loosely but wish to use more).  His work “Make Phil Great Again” was unexpectedly amusing, and seeing him interviewing a stranger called ‘Cindy Sherman’, asking her to recount how great he is, was funny.

Looking at “When I was six” after this, was a bit of a reality check – although Toledano mixes reality with imagination in this work, the subject matter is very real and poignant.

After the death of his parents, Toledano discovered boxes which he describes as ‘museums’ full of things his sister had ‘touched’ before her sudden death at the age of nine.  He photographed the box, items in the box,  beautifully yet simply laid out.  There is a photograph of a school dress, protective tissue paper just about seen – with the shadow of the window upon it. A mix of light and shade. A worn down pencil with his sister’s name on it, again in partial light and shade. An old photograph. A lock of hair. A lace fan…all shot with the same background, interspersed with images that he has made, representing, in his words, imagined landscapes – a place where he, a six year old boy, could be saved.

By suggesting that I look at this work, my tutor saw potential resemblances to my work as the book dummy I made mixes reality with fiction – old found photographs with my imaginations of what might have been once there, in the torn pages.

Making Phil Great again can be seen:


When I was six can be seen:


Taryn Simon

I found the home page on Simon’s site of ‘a Living Man Declared Dead’ difficult to read, with so much text that I found myself wanting to skim it so I could discover what it was about. This body of work is huge, comprising eighteen chapters, each one having three segments. On the left, a kind of family tree in photographs, the middle section is narrative based to include details, and the third section are footnote images, providing clarification and evidence. Empty spaces represent people who could not be photographed. It is these empty spaces with which my work most closely connects.  Photographing the empty spaces in my found album, I have been drawn into looking at them more closely and as well as imagining what might once have been there, I have examined in detail the surface of the page itself, sometimes being captivated by the beauty of the damaged object.

A Living Man Declared Dead can be seen here:


Guest lecture: Amy Simmons. 

Amy has a BAHons on Fashion Promotion and Imaging. She has worked as an art buyer, art producer, and an integrated producer.

Due to technical problems I downloaded the transcript from her talk and read through it rather than watch the recording.  For quick reference here is a list of appropriate terms she mentioned.

Comping – taking the best bits from several photos and mixing them together to make one good one.

Scamps – mock ups

Legals – all legal aspects

Re-touching – adding or taking away something from the image that didn’t exist

Treatment – a document that the photographer creates which presents your approach.

Usage –  the industry standard is usually one territory (eg one country), two media (eg Instagram and facebook), and length of time (eg one year).

PPMS – pre production meetings

Contact report  minutes of the meeting

Wrapping – finishing the day

OOH – Out of Home, eg images that are seen outside the home such as bus stop, billboards etc.

DOOH -Digital Out of Home – eg posters  might pop up inbetween adverts

POS – point of sales – the oint at which you would normally buy the product

DM – direct marketing

A brief mention of Camera Lucida – Barthes

I’ve spent the last couple of months reading this book (I could only read a couple of pages at a time!) For me, a difficult read but also touchingly beautiful in the way Barthes tries to recapture his mother’s essence through a faded photograph.

As a brief summary I have listed a few quotes. Particularly pertinent for me is the quote in bold. I intend to investigate this notion further in the not too distant future.

The photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only for certain what has been. (p85)

…in the Photograph the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation. (p.89)

The photograph is violent…because …it fills the sight by force…in it nothing can be refused or transformed. (p.91)

If I like a photograph , if it disturbs me, I linger over it. What am I doing, during the whole time I am with it? I look at it, scrutinise  it, as if I wanted to know more about the thing or the person it represents. (p.99)

…to scrutinise means to turn the photograph over, to enter into the paper’s depth , to reach its other side (what is hidden for us Westerners more “true” than what is visible). (p.100)

The noeme of photography is simple, banal; no depth: “that has been.” (p.115)

The full book reference may be found on the References page of this blog.

Three new photobooks

I purchased three photo books at the Paris Photo fair. Not for reasons of subject matter, but because of their design – anticipating that they would be helpful when deciding on the structure /edit of my dummy photo book.

  1. Lighting Store – A-Chan.
Figure 13

This soft-backed book measures 10×7 inches, has a black sugar-paper type cover, has 12 double pages and is hand bound. It has 3 holes for the stitching. My copy is number 190 of 700. It cost 12Euros. All the images are black and white, printed on off-white fairly thick paper. It feels rough to the touch. Each image has a white border.

Inside the first page, as the final part of the front matter is a short poem about cleaning chandeliers and other lights in a store. It is written by A-Chan and serves as an introduction to the photographs. Some are close up detail whilst others have a longer focal length. The images illustrate the short poem.

The simplicity of this book is appealing and is reflected in its price. I could make a dummy book like this.

2. 10 days in Kraków – Yuanyuan Yang.

Figure 12

I fell in love with this book as soon as I opened it. The dimensions are 18 x 26 cm. It is a hardback and has 168 pages. My copy is number 249/500, each copy is signed.  The first four pages are the front matter with a short text introduction and two photographs. Then comes the title page, then a quote from T.S. Eliot.

This book is beautiful, with a mix of single images, double spreads, inserts, pockets, and found photography. It has all the elements that I tried to use in my ‘Terry’ project in the previous module (apart from the subject matter of course). It’s appeal is in its intrigue and its tactile nature. In places it looks like a dummy photo book, as if there are actual photographs stuck in – but this is a clever illusion. I definitely am drawn again into creating another dummy book with inserts and fold outs, but won’t be able to manage the hardback and sharp edit without a designer.

I was happy to pay 40Euros for it at the Paris Book Fair, but not sure that otherwise I would have paid that price elsewhere.

I found a vimeo recording of the book online – the link is below. (Details are in the References Page of this blog).

10 days in Kraków video link

3.  Eden – Bernadita Morello

Figure 11

The largest of the three, this book measures 13×8 inches. The vendor sold it to me for 20 Euros because it was the last one and wasn’t bound.  There is no text on the front, and the title is difficult to spot as it’s printed inside the  fold-out which is the first and last page. The vendor couldn’t remember who the photographer was, I eventually found the print on the last page in small text which did not stand out from the deep red paper. However, he did tell me that the book had won a dummy book award, and its publication was the prize. On the last page is the explanation – this work won the Fiebre photobook 2015 dummy award.

The appeal of this book, for me, is in the full-bleed images, and the way the edge of the paper is not a boundary for the print – the images continue onto the following page, as if they overlap and merge into one another.  Some of the images are not full bleed, and there are blank pages too.  The full bleeds form the middle part of the book, with smaller images in the first and last sections.  it is visually attractive.  Although the front page in its size and colour are reminiscent of a scrap book, the insides do not have that same feel due to the high quality of the paper and colourful images.

Sara Davidmann – Ken. To be Destroyed

I looked this work up on recommendation at my portfolio review.

I found the online edit a little odd – with a mix of colour, black and white, portraits, abstract and still-life images .  My own work also works simultaneously with these genres so seeing them next to each other on the page has helped me think about which of mine should / should not be placed next to each other.

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 14.29.36
Figure 10. Screenshot taken from Davidmann’s website

I have to decide whether I group images in my dummy book according to style or theme. I have veered between the two and ideally see them being placed thematically. However the above images of the still lives do work well together; whereas in my opinion the third line down doesn’t work as well due to the positioning of the family portrait on the end. This , I feel might have been better positioned next to the image directly below it as they both appear to be from a family album in their original state.  (Details of webpage on References page).

Erez Israeli – Sailors (Tribute to Querelle), 2018

This work is of significance to my current practice. In the previous module my dummy photo book included pieces of memorabilia, in reference to old family photo albums where objects other than photographs were also saved. For my current project I am continuing with this idea, and sourced a WW1 medal amongst other things which I have photographed to include. In my case, these objects refer indirectly to photographic references (Wood, 1919, RAF for instance, led to the purchase of a RAF medal awarded to WS Wood at around the same time). Other memorabilia I intend to include are RAF buttons, wedding cake decorations, and dice.

Israeli’s work has many individual photographs as well as framed objects that presumably belonged to the sailors in the images. One of these is a gold locket with a head and shoulder shot of a young man in it. On a personal level I found these personal objects more narrative in style and worthy of my prolonged attention than the old photographs did. My reasoning for this is because each one is unique, and is a signifier; whereas I have seen a great deal of old photographs, and most of these serve the purpose of recording a face, a uniform, a historical record.

                                                                        Figure 9

William Klein at the Paris Photo Fair

William Klein is another practitioner whose work I would like to look at closer. Striking in his city – life portraits is his use of colour and collage; which on one level is narrative, and on another completely abstract.

Figure 8

Vivian Maier – The Color Work at the Paris Photo Fair

This body of work captures the street life of Chicago and New York between the 1950s and the 1980s, and includes a number of self-portraits. There is a book by the same name. Taking a closer look at this work is on my to-do list, as the abstraction with the human action working alongside each other is an interesting concept; but more importantly for me is the occasional self portrait amongst the rest. Currently in my work in progress I am considering (hoping) to include two self portraits.

Figure 7

Joan Fontcuberta – Gastropoda at the Paris Photo Fair

Gastropoda refers to iconic decomposition: the process of irreversible decay turns images into echoes of themselves which, as a result, reveal the aesthetics of horror and destruction….The project also emphasizes the shift of the image as pure representation towards becoming an object, – Joan Fontcuberta. See reference page for details.

Photographs which show some kind of ‘irritation’ catch my eye, whether the source is natural or forced. Damage inflicted on the page is very much part of my work in progress as I examine the man made rips and tears on the album pages, and I begin to inflict it on some of the remaining photographs.

Figure 6

Geraldo de Barros – Sobras at the Paris Photo Fair

Meaning ‘what remains’, Sobras is an ongoing  series (1996 – )  made from collages of old negatives on glass plates.  De Barros scratches, draws, cuts and pastes onto the negatives.  By doing so, he revisits his old images and memories, cutting and splicing things he can no longer recall, revitalising the missing parts of his memory.

Figure 5

This particular image grabbed my attention because of its apparent destruction by ripping – a technique I experimented with in the Positions and Practice module.

Jo Ann Callis at the Paris Photo Fair

This work was a series of contact prints from ‘early colour series’. Vintage contact prints were mounted to card, signed dated and captioned from the 1970s. It clearly appealed to me because of its use of vintage photographs.

Figure 4

Noé Sandas Walking and Remembering – Paris Photo Fair

Figure 3

There were two reasons why the work of Sandas caught my eye at the Paris Photo Fair. Firstly, the subject matter – the images he refers to as ‘Antique Art’ interest me because of the connection with the found photography I use. The juxtaposition of two images with a snippet of text intrigued me, making me question what the connection between them is. In the example above, there is a page of a book and a photograph or postcard. Visually I found them pleasing, with lines, shapes and textures going from one to the other. Other than that I noticed no connection. The other eye catching element to this work was its method of display. The images were sandwiched between two plates of glass and held in situ by objects not usually associated with works of art, such as an old tool vice.  The presentation allowed the viewer to walk around the work, seeing it from both sides. Other visitors were visible through the glass, thereby seeming to make them an integral yet changing part of the installation.

Figure 2

Of the work, Sandas says its “purpose is to awaken memories which are not yours, which are older than you, to restore connexions and renew relationships which lie in the distant past” . (See reference page.)

Sophie Calle’s The Address Book

This book appealed to me on so many different levels. Having taken inspiration from Calle’s The Hotel, Room 47 in the last module where I took a self portrait in the hotel room where I was staying, I looked forward to reading her Address Book.

The audacity she presents in contacting people previously unknown to her and interviewing them about someone they know (Pierre D.) is remarkable. As is the willingness and openness of most of these people to talk openly to her about Pierre.

Each entry in the book was published in Libération in 1983. Calle is blunt about her discoveries made through her investigative research, and illustrates each entry with a photograph taken by herself (with the exception of one). Connections between images and writing are not always obvious, some of them with more tentative or suggestive links than others. Some are set on the same page as text, some have their own page, either left or right. A few are a double page spread. Most were taken at the time and place of interview – either of a foot, head or crowd. Others are of part of the room itself such as a photo on the wall, a doorway. A few were taken outside. All, apart from one, a polar bear, are in black and white.

As the reader I question the meaning of this book. I want to know what we are expected to think or feel –  what Calle expects her reader’s experience to be. In response, I would describe it is a narrative – an unfolding story of discovery about the character known as Pierre D. Through it, we learn about his life, interests, friends and work. We peek inside the minds of his acquaintancies and are interested to see how far they will go when discussing Pierre with a stranger. It tells us of human relationships, integrity. It questions ethics and the blur between fact and fiction. Most of all, it is about honesty.

I very much enjoyed this book, in particular the slow, unfolding, illustrated narrative. Also of important note is the design of the book – small, red hardback with black binding –  as was the original address book that Calle found by accident one day.

The Fae Richards Photo Archive

In a recent portfolio review during the Photo Paris weekend, it was suggested that I look at this work.

The Fae Richards Photo Archive is a collaboration between Zoe Leonard and Cheryl Dunye.

Photographer Leonard staged photographs over many years of  fictional character Fae Richards.  These then formed props in film maker Dunye’s film The Watermelon Woman – in which Dunye plays the main character (also called Cheryl) who is researching the life of the 1930s starlet Fae Richards. The archives she looks through are the original photographs that Leonard staged.

The article in Archives & Creative Practice (for details see reference page) states:

“Through the use of photographic and archival conventions Leonard and Dunye successfully borrow from the lives of historical figures to create a believable narrative that opens up questions as to what is left out of the historical record”

The result is a multi-layered blurring of fact and fiction.

A relevant lecture clip from Contemporary Art in Context can be seen here

After discovering the work of these two collaborators I have been able to place my own work contextually alongside it as relevant pointers in my Jimmy project include:

  1. A mixture of fact and fiction which will create a photo book.
  2. The book will have chapters, based around photographs of the original album and its parts; still-life photographs which are fictional props; story telling self – portraiture.
  3. A longer term addition would be to include ‘missing’ photographs, taken by collaborators. Already I have four such images, but are unlikely to be included in my assignment submission.
  4. There will be archival material, either to be photographed or included as appendices in the photo book.

In my portfolio review it was suggested that I might concentrate on what was in my found album, rather than trying to imagine what was not there. Having read this article and others I am more convinced that the way forward for my current work is to proceed as planned. I will, however, look at the use of colour within some of my still life work so they they don’t jar with the original photographs; and also do more work looking at the album’s pages, as encouraged.

A Star is Born

An interesting point I noted while watching “A Star is born” were the throwbacks –  particularly the reference to using a typewriter to write out the songs; and hints at 1970s fashion); sneaked into the 2018 production.

Following some advice from my last module (to make my work either be about the past, or the present – ie not both) , I have been giving consideration on how this could be narratively possible. Seeing this film yesterday has convinced me again that it’s OK to mix past with present, so long as its coherent.

Guest lecture: Susan Bright

Curator and author Susan Bright works with her own references (such as thread). She enjoys curating far more than writing, she sees the latter as more of a necessity , something we all have to go through, rather than something she enjoys doing.

Bright works freelance for museums, this is also the preferred medium for her role to a “D.J/Plate spinner”, she sees herself as an educator, designer. entertainer, and researcher. Her exhibitions include “How we are” at Tate Britain, and “Face of fashion” at the National Portrait Gallery.

She finds it useful to use a scale model (a maquette) to design her exhibition, as it helps to work out how a real design space will look.  Recently I referred in a recent post about Christopher Agou using a maquette too. On a smaller scale, the dummy photo books that I made during the last module (and still perhaps in this one) serve the same purpose.

Like myself, Bright uses tactile objects to engage the audience. Most pertinent for me is the idea of designing a box, inside which there are pictures – every picture is a postcard with instructions on the back. This can then be played like a game. My current work will be presented inside a box and so this has been interesting for me to imagine how I might further engage the audience as they look inside.

Upcoming “Feast for the Eyes” for FOAM is both exhibition and book, and thematically (opposed to chronologically) tells the story of food in photography, curated by Susan Bright and Denise Wolff.

Links to this exhibition may be seen here: Aperture, and here: FOAM

Photographers’ Sketchbooks

Recently I have been looking at some of the practitioners included in Photographers’ Sketchbooks. Below is a selection of them, taken after my first look at the book a couple of days ago.  They each hold a particular interest to me – either because of their practice or their methodology. All of these practitioners will be influential as I consider various vernacular methods to display my current work.

Hong Kong based Michael Wolf .

Wolf collected cheap toys that were made in China. He travelled for 30 days and visited dozens of flea markets. Afterwards, he visited the factories where they were made, and photographed the workers.

(McLaren and Formhals, p. 294)

Buenos Aires based Irina Werning.

Werning’s viral project (Back to the Future) was created using vernacular and found material. She uses repeat photography methods, finding the human subjects in old photographs and getting them to re-stage the image, keeping clothes, layout and background as close to the original as possible. She searches for props, clothing etc online and anywhere else she can. If she’s unsuccessful in finding something then she makes it herself.

(McLaren and Formhals, p. 286)

Christopher Agou, French photographer.

Making a book dummy in 2010-11, Agou printed the images on heavy matte paper and bound them using an accordion fold technique. He uses the word maquette; I understand this to mean ‘sketch’ or ‘model’.

“The making of a maquette takes place in steps: determining the editorial content, sequencing the photographs and creating layouts in order to enhance the ‘heartbeat’ of the work.”

His work Looking for Words “explores man’s relationship between an unambiguous truth in the fast-changing environment of present-day China”.

(McLaren and Formhals, p. 18)

Jessica Backhaus, German photographer.

Sequencing her books is central to her practice; as the edit allows the images to express “her inner stream of consciousness”. 

She relies on methods such as arranging the printed photos in albums. Experiments play a key role too, by throwing many photos onto a white sheet to “see what happens”.

(McLaren and Formhals, p. 38

Robin Cracknell 

“Traditionally, keeping a diary has been a highly private endeavour, never to be shared with the outside world. But in the age of social media, people are sharing more and more private details from their lives. ” 

He creates notebooks that are beautifully designed, so that the viewer wants to engage with them.

“Flipping through them is like peering into someone’s memory and trying to decode its significance. Cracknell’s notebooks teach us that the capriciousness of memory can be beautiful, even if we’re not sure why we remember what we remember”.

(McLaren and Formhals, p. 74)

Zhang Xiao, based in China.

He has exhibited hundreds of payment envelopes which have been given to him for journalistic work. Onto these envelopes he has printed the photographs he has used in the articles.

“His series ‘Envelopes‘ … is an exemplary tale of how a photographer can find new meaning in the pictures taken during the daily grind of grip – and – grins and minor celebrity affairs that photojournalists cover in order to pay the rent.”

(McLaren and Formhals, p. 300)

Round table – interview with Steve Macleod & Kate O’Neill from Metro Imaging

This interview concerned crucial dos and don’ts surrounding networking. Some of them may appear obvious – but often the obvious passes us by and we need to be reminded – certainly I do!

Key points which I consider relevant to my own emerging practice:

  • Work out your place in partnerships
  • Strike up conversations with like-minded people –  if you have something in common you can help each other
  • Often graduates shift location after University and therefore lose all their networks. Is it necessary to relocate?
  • Go to gallery private views, join things and build up networking that way
  • Initiate something, for example Sophie Gerrard set up Document Scotland.
  • Make the work speak for itself. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, there are ways of communication. Social media / emailing is great if you’re an introvert!
  • Do not make excuses not to network – otherwise you are stopping your own career from developing
  • Be tactical when choosing your own network. There is no point in bombarding lots of galleries – they all have a niche and know where their market is. Find a gallery where you can imagine your work being exhibited, sign up for newsletters, private viewings and other events
  • It is a relatively small industry and your work starts to become validated when other people start talking about it
  • Consider how you come across to other people. Would people want to work with you? It’s a people industry  – do you come recommended?
  • Think of ways of connecting with people in the industry (eg curators) – don’t bombard with emails, be creative in your approach
  • Portfolio reviews. A lot of people don’t know how to present themselves, or what questions to ask. Be open minded, and be prepared. Be sure to know who you’re going – which is to receive constructive criticism. You’re likely to be contradicted – remember that this is a good thing! Portfolios can be a mixture of projects, even single photos
  • Have conviction in your own work and know your strengths. Having a fear of failing is natural – failure (and rejection) is part of life. Ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen?” (This is already my motto!
  • Take care not to let your own stress and deadlines affect other people

Guest interview with Max Barnett

Maximus is the founder of Pylot, which is an analogue fashion / art based magazine. Each issue is themed, and one of the key concepts is that no images are edited / retouched.

This interview seemed very relevant to my current position with this MA course, the timing coinciding well with my musings on the best way forward. The following points are the ones I want to note and remember:

  • Relationships (in the work world) are so important, find a way that suits you. Industry is PR driven – you need to be able to talk to clients about other things too
  • Find your own voice, know who you want to be visually
  • Note who you idolise and work out how to get where they are, professionally
  • Have a printed portfolio, and for this choose your strongest work. Keep it simple – it shouldn’t be too long. With printed it’s possible to show finesse – the physical aspect allows the viewer to come away from the screen and therefore have more engagement with it. You can also see how things work in print – and it’s better received than showing on an iPad, for example
  • Your physical edit should be different to your website portfolio
  • Consider the relationship of the images when seen together, such as colour combinations and patterns. Your edit needs to be highly selective
  • Have different folios for different clients
  • Keep clients up to date – allow them to be able to see your new work, without being too pushy
  • If you leave things with potential clients, don’t make them too fussy. (Great advice for me, just as I was about to send out postcards with other attachments – I will now simplify my plan!)
  • If approaching magazines or agencies, ensure that you identify with what they are about as you need to be able to reflect their style – do your research
  • Spend more time with your own ideas

Beijing Silvermine

Beijing Silvermine

This link is to a Vimeo about the work of Thomas Sauvin in China.

Sauvin  rescues film negatives by the kilo at an illicit recycling dump in Beijing. He sorts and categorises them, sometime collaborating with others to make an animated film. He does not edit any of the images, preferring for them to tell their own story. Of his work, he says: ‘The story will have created itself on its own, at every new discovery.’

Sauvin finds fascination in the uniformity in all of the images.

’There is the feeling that they could have been shot by one person …there is a link between them all’.

By this he is eluding to the fact that the portrait shots are very often shot in the same position (middle  frame) with the same distance from the photographer.

The interest in this work for me lies with the use of appropriated images, and Sauvin’s analysis of the relationship between the photographer and their subject. This is something I have started to investigate in my work, especially when considering the use of text on the album page. Are they the words of the photographer, or the subject ? What is the relationship between the two? Does it change?

Unlike Sauvin, I use appropriated photographs to retell or remake a story, looking deep within the pictures and album to find clues; finding ways to thread them into a narrative which is a combination of fact and fiction.

14th October 2018

During Friday’s webinar, I made a note of the word vernacular as our tutor used it in reference to my work. Quite by accident I came across it again the following day whilst reading an article by Karin Becker (Becker 2016: p. 100).

Becker says: ‘Vernacular’ includes the everyday without excluding those special, unusual or ‘historic’ occasions that people use their own image making devices to capture. ‘

She goes on to say that ‘The vernacular … (builds) on tradition and at the same time (breaks) new ground, often drawing on forms of popular and public culture, both visual and non visual’… and that it ‘represents the experience of the normal person …closely tied to the photographer’s lived experience’

It is a natural step to discuss my current work from this perspective. With my (amateur) interest in genealogy and social history,  and embracement of modern technologies with experimental methodologies; I aim to colour found photographs with modern expressions relevant to my own life experiences. One of my most recent pieces of work combines a found 1920s photograph and writing from the album page with an image I made using the album as stimuli.

Rather than repeating everything that I have listened to this week, below is my summary of points discussed which are most pertinent to my own, evolving practice:

  • Interactive storytelling.  Just as it sounds, really – with the audience encouraged to interact with the narrative using technology and/or collaboration. In this way the storyline is not predetermined. Strangely, I also came across this concept in this week’ s Apprentice, in which teams were given the task of producing a comic using augmented reality (AR).
  • Another form of visual storytelling. ‘Photographs rendered in Play-Doh’ – an innovative concept using photography in a unique way by  Eleanor Macnair.
  • Storytelling via social media, in which the audience is coaxed into believing an elaborate performance. ‘Excellences and Perfections’ by Amalia Ulman had the audience convinced that what they were seeing was fact, which of course it wasn’t!

Week two

Wishing to know more about a photograph in Jimmy’s album of four men standing outside a Pathé building, I found contact details on their website and emailed this query:

  • Dear Sir or Madam,                                                       (sent 4/10/11)

I am writing to ask if you would be able to help me in my search of Pathe’s history in the 1920s, at Lisle Street.  Having just started the second year of my Master’s degree in Photography; my current research project is concerned with a photograph album which spans the years 1919-1932. In one of the photographs, four men are standing outside a building, with the caption ‘Lisle St W. Pathé (France or House) , May 1926 ‘. (Photo attached below.) Having read an article in British History Online I have matched my photograph with one taken in the 1960s with no. 5 Lisle Street. My main area of interest around this photo is what the men might have been doing there. Would you be able to give me any information regarding what the building was used for at that time? Did it show footage or was it used for offices? Were the public permitted inside? Was it a place that would have been primarily visited by the wealthy ? Perhaps it was a prestigious place to be photographed ? Is there any archival material from the building or film at that time that I might be able to use for the purpose of my MA? These are just general questions, but I would be very grateful if you are able to help with any details at all regarding Pathé in 1926. Many thanks for any information you are able to supply.

Yours faithfully

Teresa Williams

  • Dear Teresa                                                                       (received 5/10/18)

Many thanks for your email and your interest in our history! It’s really great to see these photographs.

I do wish I could be of more help to you, particularly since it is related to an MA. Unfortunately, our records have not been kept as well as they should have been over the years, mostly due to the fact that Pathé has changed hands so many times (the British newsreel division – which I work at – alone has had 12 different owners since it was founded, and the British feature film division and French production and distribution companies are all now separate entities with their own convoluted histories as well).

In fact, until you emailed, none of us here were aware we ever had an office on Lisle St at all! One reason for that might be that the newsreel offices were located on Wardour St. It may be that the feature film division was on Lisle St. Or the music record division, perhaps.

When British Pathé split from French Pathé in 1927, I’m assuming the building became part of British Pathé, though it is possible that the French company retained the building and had it as a UK office, like French Pathé does today on Ramillies St.

But due to the state of our paperwork records, it’s really not something I can work out with any certainty at all. Once again, apologies for not being of any use. But I hope you’re able to track down the information you need, and I wish you success with your studies.

All best                                                         

The photograph in question:  naturally I was delighted to receive a response so quickly, but disappointed not to have found any details about this image yet!

Figure 1

Guest lecture: Vikki Forrest, 2/10/18

Unfortunately this lecture coincided with one of my teaching days, luckily I was able to watch the recording. Having seen Vikki’s guest lecture a few months back, I chose to watch this one as a revision exercise – as my work is now veering towards the world of Photobooks.  However, this lecture was different and was predominantly about text and captions – which was incredibly useful.

Looking at three examples of Photobooks, specifically their layout and design, use of text and typography, Vikki stressed the importance of visual clues and the creation of the right atmosphere at the beginning of a book. New to me was the idea of a photo essay, how a series of photographs near the front of the book tells a story through images, in the same way that sentences and phrases do. Maybe this could be the way I incorporate some of Jimmy’s original photos into my book. Also something to consider using different paper for the photo essay than for the rest of the work.

If working with full bleeds, a trim of 3mm should be allowed for. Also consider what part of the image will lie across the gutter. The material used for the front cover is very important. Cloth is durable but difficult to print on. Looser binding can lay flatter than tight binding.

Tommy Hafalla – Ili

This starts with a half title page, followed by a full title page, and then a poem which gives an indication of what the book is about. These three pages are called the front matter.

Simple layout, rigorous. Single spreads / double spreads. However you arrange your photographs with texts / captions, it is important to be consistent throughout

Glossary of terms at the end.

Edmund Clark – Guantanamo – If the lights go out

Clarks’s book is signed, with a dedication to his children. He uses italics and highlighting. None of the photos have captions. Instead, they are labelled as plates 1,2,3,4 etc; and then arranged as thumbnails at the end of the book with captions.

Angus Fraser – Santa Muerta

Fraser uses a modern approach to text. Starting with a half title page, and a poem, he then launches straight into imagery. This is known as a photo essay, and tells the story through images – photographic sentences and phrases. Pages are numbered. He too has a dedication near the front of the book. Photographs have no text. Fraser’s book has chapters and there are large amounts of documentation towards the end, and acknowledgements.

28th September 2018

Guest lecture : Max Ferguson, editor (Smash&Grab; Port). (Viewed via the recording from 18/9/18)

As someone who is not looking for a career as a photographer after the MA, Max’s talk gave me some hope that there might be other opportunities to work creatively within the photography world.

Key points for me:

  1. When he uses the term ‘young’ – he is referring to new photographers rather than being defined by age.
  2. Instagram is likely to be looked at before website by editors
  3. Try to keep style as broad as possible
  4. Max doesn’t look for particular photographers, but photographs he likes, instead
  5. Brands look for photographers with a strong personal narrative. Cian Oba – Smith uses his website as a platform to show his personal projects rather than his professional ones
  6. It’s a necessity to have a tight website and to keep it well maintained
  7. There are more readers online than for print
  8. Max is constantly looking for ways that photographers can make more money – currently there is not enough work for the amount of working photographers

To do:

  1.  Update my website
  2. Work more on my Instagram account, weed out some of the photographs which don’t fit in with the image I am trying to create. (Have a personal, and a professional one?)
  3. Look at the work of Cian Oba – Smith
  4. Find out more about the magazines that Antenne Books and Artworks Books publish
  5. Keep looking for new ideas, a niche, and ways of presenting my work

23rd September 2018

Having subscribed to “Lecture in Progress”; listened to the week’s audio recordings on Canvas and watched the interview with Will Hartley; I made a list of pertinent quotes, tips and advice on becoming a photographer:

The earlier you can realise where your passions lie the better – Kyle Bean

Being confident in how you present your work is as important as making it – Luke Evans

If you’re not a bit stressed or unsure of how to approach something, then it’s too easy and you’re doing it wrong…To make the most of your time at university, don’t be afraid of trying new things and producing the work you like, instead of what you think other people will like. Trust me, you will enjoy your time more, gain deeper insights and work far better this way. But remember to always be humble and remain open to new ways of working.  Zanthe Simmans

Write it all down. See it all in one place – Roshni Goyate

Most things start with an email. From my own experience on receiving emails from those starting out, I like to see a web link, as well as a bespoke pdf attachment. I tend to lose the emails sent at certain times of the day – especially a Friday afternoon or in the middle of a busy day. Personally early morning suits as the day may not have begun in earnest for that perspective employer and it shows your not lazing in bed nursing a post-student hangover. I would suggest never sending at the weekend as there need to be boundaries. This also applys to when working with clients overall. Its not cool receiving emails late into the night or weekend. By all means formulate things at the weekend if need be but send during work hours.   – Charlotte Heal

Professional experience is necessary in a fast evolving industry. Initially it may be necessary to offer services for free.  Research the photographers you want to work with, present only positive character traits to them, and send a covering letter with your CV. Networking is important. Follow photographers on social media. Never stop learning. Keep on top of the latest equipment.  Take full advantage of what the university, its staff and peers have to offer. Listen to people’s advice and apply it to your own thinking. You make your own opportunities in life.

I have been working in a professional industry for the past fifteen years (albeit a different one), and so most of the points covered above regarding how to present oneself to other photographers, prospective employers and clients I apply to my own, current career.